July 13, 2020

Maintenance mishap creates problem at Point Lepreau nuclear power plant

SAINT JOHN, New Brunswick — The troubled Point Lepreau nuclear power plant had another incident of faulty workmanship last month, a newly released report shows.

The Atomic Energy Control Board says the incident occurred Dec. 9 while the facility within 30 miles of the Maine border was already on an extended shutdown for maintenance.

Mechanics removed a large cover from a water pipe and left the area to clarify some information on a work permit. Two days later, unaware that the cover had been removed, technicians started the water pump, damaging pipes and other equipment.

The incident, the fourth problem involving workmanship since 1995, was outlined in a board report released this week.

“Well, it certainly was a breakdown in communications in our operations group, no question about that fact,” said Rob White, vice president of operations at New Brunswick Power, the provincially owned utility that runs the Point Lepreau reactor.

“This is what we call a near miss,” he said from Fredericton. “It didn’t cause an accident; we had something happen that was different than what we expected and we record those things so that we can learn from them.

“We had nobody hurt, there was minimal equipment damage in this case, this was on the conventional side of the plant, it has no nuclear significance.”

Cost of repairs will be minimal, he added.

Similar problems were uncovered after extended maintenance in 1995, including a nuclear fuel channel not adequately fastened down, and a loose piece of wood that fouled the pumps. The incidents cost the facility more than $50 million in repairs and replacement power.

Earlier this year, the Atomic Energy Control Board issued a damning report about safety problems at the plant, situated on the Bay of Fundy near this southern New Brunswick city.

The report called for “urgent action,” saying that “station management has focused too much attention on maximizing production and minimizing costs.”

Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

comments for this post are closed

You may also like